Release Review: Pushing Back the Empire (Pod 261)

AussieJedi: This is where the fun begins. This objective sets the tone for just how strong and flexible a game mechanic the Alliance mechanic has the potential to be. The reaction is beautiful to see in an affiliation that has tended to struggle with resources. With the exception of a piloted vehicle deck that has super cheap pilots, we tend to have Rebels that cost us a pretty penny. This changes things, since when it is coupled with 5 Smuggler sets, you can utilize the “Information Network” Affiliaton card and this does two things; 1) gives you an extra resource on the affiliation (great for the bottom line) and 2) allows a really great probability that you are going to also have a relevant card in your hand to take advantage of the cost reduction. This might be exactly what Rebels needed to afford some of their more costly deployments.

GreedoShotFirst: I really like this objective. There are plenty of cheap Rebel cards that can be played (like Hera’s mission or Scouting Ahead) to make for cheap Yoda, You Seek Yoda and Hidden Outposts. Given there is no damage limit, this card is relevant the entire game. It gives you ramp early game and sustains its value mid and late game as well. In a world (I know your inner monologue just read that in the movie narrator voice) where an objective flop can decide a game, this is one objective that you definitely want to see.

Dav Flamerock: While this objective is potentially super powerful, it’s also super awkward. What it does is give you 2 resources every turn, but only if you’re able to play both a Rebel and non-Rebel card. Often this isn’t going to matter much: you can make your Hidden Outpost free, but only if you play it after your Rebel unit. But when things line up and you can jam a Rebel/Neutral or Rebel/Jedi or Rebel/Smuggler card every turn, this is going to be one of your best objectives. It makes Necessary Alliances (the new resource) look WAY better, and it really encourages you to make use of the new affiliations that push for multifaction. It’s not something I’m going to seek out in deckbuilding, but I’m sure it’s something I’ll be happy to have during the game (assuming I’m not mono-Rebels), which I think makes this a perfect objective design.

Farsight: Thinking about the jigsaw puzzle turns that could be created by this objective gives me a headache, but that is a tribute to it’s power. Assuming you have a sufficient mix of Rebel and non-Rebel cards (neutral will do fine as well) this objective has the power to create extra resources on your turn and your opponents, without getting locked down with focus tokens like a regular two resource objective. This card places a very high value on cheap cards with the Rebel affiliation, especially if they also have a resource attached, like Rebel Fleet Command. Keep that in mind while deckbuilding and sequencing out your turn, and this could be a very powerful objective indeed.

AussieJedi: It’s time for some Rogue One characters and at that, it seems like a really strong main. 4 cost, 3 health and 3 Force icons with two unit damage and one blast. Alongside that, has an edge enabled tactics to help on defense. His elite trait is a beautiful thing to see in Rebels, but his reaction is something that I want to delve deeper into. This ability allows your non-Rebels a double strike, which can be backbreaking. Sure it’s limit once per turn, but hey, I will take that. The threat of Cassian winning the edge and having a unit double strike, really will want to make your opponent commit to the edge battle.

GreedoShotFirst: This card is really strong and allows for multiple light side strikes. The best part is that a unit being freed up doesn’t need to be in the engagement. Icon distribution makes him ideal for the second attack per turn freeing up another control unit like Yoda for a final attack. This also helps should you not see May the Force Be With You on your opening flop and can still take the Force while getting in a couple of attacks. This guy is aces and should be the staple of many Rebel character decks moving forward. Look to pair with Hera or Dodonna as the Leader trait and neutral units will give a lot of synergy between these sets.

Dav Flamerock: Unlike the (somewhat) clunky objective, Cassian looks utterly amazing. If you can time your strikes right and your opponent doesn’t disrupt you, he gets to let another main (say, Jyn or Yoda or Luke) strike twice in the same conflict, or even strike in two different conflicts, if you can make three attacks (Main->Cassian->Main again). If you have only Rebel units, or your only non-Rebel units are neutral chuds, then his value goes way down, and since he has a tactics you often want to go with him first to disrupt your opponent’s plans. Additionally, because all his value comes from striking multiple times in normal strike windows, it’s not difficult for your opponent to use multiple units with guns or a single unit with tactics to disrupt that sequence. Ultimately I don’t think he’s that much better than, say, Jan Dodonna, but he’s definitely a unit worth playing.

Farsight: Before I get to raving about this card, I just want to talk about my biggest (and only) complaint: the art. What the heck happened here?  In the upcoming Rebellion board game expansion they have a Cassian token with much better artwork, so clearly it exists somewhere at FFG. This guy was one of my favorite characters in Rogue One and I while I’m glad they gave him such a great card I wish it didn’t hurt to look at. Whoever comes up with alt-art promos for this card better print a lot of them.

Now, as for the card itself – four cost cards need to do a lot of work these days and fortunately Cassian has the numbers to match in terms of icons, pips, and health. The thing that really sets him off as a new all-star is his ability to unfocus a non-Rebel when he strikes. This ability is extremely versatile, usable on attack or defense, on someone who is in the engagement or outside of it. All you need is another unit, preferably a decent one with combat icons worth unfocusing. Cassian even comes with a tactics icon to help clear the way for the unit that he readies. His most obvious partner is Jyn Erso, since they can tag-team together to do five strikes in one turn on two objectives, but really any unit with some number of blast or tactics icons pairs well with him. Really maxing out his power requires a little extra work, in the form of extra icons from enhancements like the Bo-rifle or Jedi Lightsaber, or the new fate card in this pod. Regardless, as soon as he arrives on the board any dark side objective (or multiples!) are immediately in danger of destruction and he becomes a must kill target. It’s up to the rest of the pod to protect him from removal events or losing an edge battle and fortunately those cards are more than up to the job.

AussieJedi: I love this chud. We get two of this sucker, which is a great thing and not something I would normally want from a chud. A two health shielding chud is beautiful but what I think is really important and synergises super well, is that the interrupt (can’t believe it’s on a chud) could mean you place the resource on a non rebel resource providing unit and when Cassian strikes, you can just remove the token, and then all you are left with is one less card from having the interrupt trigger. One really great way to cycle through your deck and protect your board. This card couples really well with the other new Rebel affiliation card “Fighters for Freedom” and can contribute to removal of focus choke. Oh yeah and he has a gun and a white blast.

GreedoShotFirst: A 2 cost, 2 icon 2 health unit with shielding would already make this a good unit. The mono-faction hate on ability cancel text makes him even better. Trying to pitch another card with a Gladiator? Nope. Want to Drop in Guri? Nope. Lightning you say? BIG nope. Ideally I think you would look to get one or 2 of these guys in play and have one in hand to cancel a major ability by the Dark Side. Things like this can really swing a game.  Plus doubling these guys allows you to play pods like Owen which really only have 1 unit in them if you need a unit boost.

Dav Flamerock: I wasn’t blown away by Cassian, but let’s be honest: this is the real reason you’re playing this pod. Two Rebel Saboteurs means you’re going to be able to have what you want, when you want it. Need a body on the board? Here’s a chud with blast and shielding. Need an event cancel? Hold this in hand. Need an ability cancel? Hold this in hand. Want to prevent your opponent from ever resolving a mission? Keep a resource up once they know you’re running 2x Cassian. These things cancel virtually everything (that’s in-faction) so there should be no time you’re ever sad to see them. This is far and away the strongest incentive for the dark side to run multifaction, and I’m still having trouble believing it exists.

Farsight: I tried typing up a list of possible cancel targets for this guy’s effect and it got out of hand extremely quickly. Suffice to say, basically any effect the Dark Side can trigger can be stopped by this card, including events, with the main exception being fate cards. Frankly, these would be pretty playable just as events that cancelled stuff, so the fact that they are attached to a pretty solid body is a little bit crazy. Two cost units with two health and icons are par for the course but shielding is big upgrade. They can protect Cassian and friends quite well either in your hand, or on the board. The only drawback is really the one resource needed to pay for the effect. While I haven’t playtested this enough to say for sure, I’d say this a pretty manageable cost especially since you’re going to know exactly when you need this and when you won’t. Dark side removal effects, in particular, are pretty predictable – Force Lightning after a unit strikes, Captured and Moment of Triumph only their turn. Playing Saboteurs doesn’t mean you need to keep an open resource at all times, but when you know it will be necessary it’s far better to have them and the option of a cancel rather than nothing.

AussieJedi: This event is something that a set with only 7 other force icons really needs. I want to say this card was made for a Rebel/Smuggler deck that includes BoShek. The possibility of a potential minimum 6 edge is nothing to cry at(well maybe for the opponent) an that doesn’t include the Falcon there to contribute. The card costs one and that is just what the set needs.

GreedoShotFirst: Teamwork makes the dream work. Need a little extra help against that 7 card reserve Dark Side? How about another 2 pips on demand? Should you have a tri-color deck, you can make it 3. Also makes you wonder with all this mixed affiliation love, will we start to see some NEW affiliations in the game?

Dav Flamerock: This card is less exciting because it isn’t quite free, but I still think it’s quite good. You’re basically never going to run Cassian in mono-Rebels (or at least, I don’t think you should) which makes this a 2-dot edge card that you can wait until after stacks are revealed to decide if you need. Now it costs you a resource, but that’s the going rate for “events that can win you the edge.” And when the cycle matures a little more, and someone like the spoiled Captain Rex comes out, the possibility of jamming three factions and having this always count for 3 edge makes it actually fantastic. It’s certainly not flashy, but don’t discount anything that says “you win this edge battle unless things go really wrong.”

Farsight: Pretty easily the weakest card here, but not worthless by a long shot. I think it will be pretty similar in practice to a supporting fire, in that when you have it can play with a little more security in a key edge battle. The fact that it costs one and only has a pip makes it kind of worthless to discard in an edge battle, and this pod already has a hunger for resources thanks to the saboteurs. The more interesting use is the way it activates the objective’s trigger, allowing you to play more in the combat phase than your opponent might otherwise expect.

AussieJedi: This card, bearing its Force pack namesake,  just sent the objective set from going from a decent support set, to a must-include flexible set.  I would have liked to see the fate card here have a third icon to really skyrocket it up there. In looking at the objective and what it gains from this, I’ll just say one thing and that is, if nothing else in the engagement,  Cassian and the Rebel Saboteur attacks with 4x unit damage, 3x Blast and 1x Tactics, with the Saboteur double striking.

GreedoShotFirst: Putting this in a 3 unit pod that doesn’t share affiliations seems like a pretty good idea. Boom goes the dynamite.

Dav Flamerock: This may very well be the next best fate card since Seeds of Decay. At maximum value, it’s Heat of Battle and Target of Opportunity on the same card, and those two fate cards are both already excellent. The only reason this is even allowed to be printed is because, while it has a high top end, you definitely have to work for it. Even in multifaction decks, you’re not going to always be attacking with two units that don’t share an affiliation, whether it’s Cassian and Rebel Tactician (because you only drew your Rebel half of the deck), or because the only way to resolve good attacks is to attack with Yoda and Jyn separately, or because your opponent has a tactics icon and you know you won’t be able to get two units to fight together in the same engagement. That’s the card’s other weakness: it requires you to resolve two strikes in order to get maximum value out of it. Resolving strikes is surprisingly difficult in this game in an era full of guns and tactics, so most likely this will be a high-skill version of either Target or Heat. Still good, but not as mind-blowing as it could be.

But if your opponent can’t stop you from resolving two strikes… there’s a reason those neutral Saboteurs have shielding.

Farsight: This is a great fate card on it’s own, and is made much better by Cassian’s reaction (and the reaction of his partner in crime, Jyn). Without them, this can be a Target of Opportunity stapled to a Heat of Battle, assuming you can win the edge battle which is not shabby at all. With those two units, that damage potential could be multiplied several times over. It’s not that these will be the biggest surprise to your opponent – edge cards already have very strong effects that can damage or focus your opponents cards – but the way this one combos with abilities that allow extra strikes makes it extra good in this pod. If this becomes popular, the dark side may have to starting packing Twist of Fate more often than they already do to shut it down, though they can also just win the edge battle or use their own removal events to strike back. Still, it’s a big boost to light side offense and I always approve of those.

Final Grades

AussieJedi Rating: This is a really strong set. Due to the lack of a resource in the set, I am really on the fence to make this a 2 of in my deck, but the things that the set can do are really important. The little things like shielding and a really cheap, yet powerful event are big things in my book. Downers here are definitely a lack of a proper resource and low face value of Force icons. Upsides to the set is a fate card (always a great surprise to the combat math) and tough chuds that can help out more than themselves with shielding.

I think that as with all sets in a first Force pack, time will age this to provide much better context on how it can prove it’s worth in taking one of the valuable objective slots in a deck.
Overall Grade: B+

GreedoShotFirst’s Judgment:
Overall Grade: A+

Dav’s Set Statistics:
Edge Rating: Average (1 Good, 2 Bad, 1 Teamwork)
Important Unit Cost: 4
Resource? No
Blast Icons:  on Cassian and  on the Saboteurs
Tactics Icons:  on Cassian
Overall Grade: A-

Farsight Rating:
The Rebel faction has had a pretty good year already, between the addition of Hera’s pod and now this. While I usually knock the grade down a bit for not having a resource the objective’s ability should be able to make up for it. Cassian is a great unit, requiring you only do what you were doing anyway: play decent units to make targets for his ability. The saboteurs could be driving dark side players nuts, possibly even driving them away from mono-faction decks and toward the new mixed affiliations in response. Unless you had C3PO or the Phantom out light side players have had to live in fear of their opponent drawing their removal spells (or recurring them with objectives like Emperor’s Web and High Exaltedness), but now they have another way to fight back. I’d expect to be seeing a lot of these running around soon, especially with pods like Zeb and Core Luke that can synergize well with multistriking.
Overall Grade: A
Art Grade: F

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